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Navigating Salary History and Salary Requirements 

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Many candidates look at a request for salary history or salary requirements and see an opportunity to share what they believe they’re worth. But disclosing specific numbers is tricky business and should not be taken lightly. Consider that although an ad lists the position responsibilities, you won’t know the full scope of duties until you are interviewed. When you step into a hiring manager’s shoes, you recognize that an unfavorable response to salary history or requirements can disqualify you from consideration.

“We advise our associates not discuss salary when they meet with potential employers,” says AppleOne Employment Services’ Michelle Koch. As an Account Executive, she is in charge of negotiating the best salary for the associates she represents. Candidates are appraised of strategies to use when clients press them about salary. “I tell them to say ‘I am open to considering your strongest offer.’ This way the applicant is answering the client without committing to any specific dollar amount,” says Koch. 

Before we look at how to handle salary situations, let’s define the terms we’re talking about. Your salary history lists previous positions you’ve held and the salary received from each employer. A salary requirement is the minimum salary or range you are willing to accept. Potential employers can ask you for this number in writing, over the phone or in person. “Getting creative with salary history on your resume in order to try to make more money is never a good idea,” says career counselor Martha Donovan. “Potential employers can verify previous salaries through reference checks and it’s not worth the risk of having someone discover the deception.”

Loose Lips Sink Offers

When it comes to resumes, applicants often believe that being forthright about their past accomplishments includes salary. A better approach is if it’s not asked, don’t volunteer. When responding to an ad, never disclose your salary history or salary requirements unless the ad specifically requests the information. It is also acceptable to respond “Salary history will be provided once mutual interest is established,” or to indicate that you will make this information available at an interview.

During an interview, whether you are acting on your own behalf or are taking advantage of a staffing service to match you with career opportunities, many of the issues are the same. Looking out for the best interests of its associates, AppleOne’s approach to salary is exemplary. “I advise my associates to NEVER discuss money in an interview,” says Koch. “Not only is it unprofessional, but it's really a trap. People shoot themselves in the foot - either they aim really high, freaking the client out and losing the opportunity, or they aim at the bottom of their range when I could have gotten them more through my negotiations with the client.”

Be Flexible

Sidestepping salary issues may seem evasive, but it buys you time so you can determine an appropriate salary range for the position. The further you go into the process, the more you will learn about the job and what the employer’s range is. If you are responding to an ad in writing, state that you are seeking competitive compensation and are flexible on salary. This keeps the ball rolling into the interview stage of the process when you can be more specific. If you are on the phone, indicate that you would prefer to discuss numbers in an interview, and add that you don't think salary will be a problem. This diffuses the issue and allows a potential employer to focus on what you plan to do and not what you plan to make

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